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Write Field: Baxter Black, the GOAT, has left the ranch

David Kragnes discusses cowboy poet Baxter Black's death.

A black and white photo of a man in a cowboy hat. The man has his arms crossed. He has a slight small on his face, which has a substantial moustache.
Baxter Black died June 10, 2022.
Courtesy / American Veterinary Medical Association
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Baxter Black passed away in June. Baxter introduced cowboy style poetry to more people than would have ever have been possible without him. At any ag related gathering across the country his name will be recognized. Baxter was the Greatest Of All Time, cowboy poet and ag meeting entertainment.

Forty-ish years ago I was at a Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers meeting to write resolutions for the annual meeting. Jeff Nord complained at some length that the fall district meetings were always during deer hunting, but noted that Joe Famalette never scheduled anything that would mess up golf. While the discussion raged about truck haul issues, I took it upon myself to write a resolution addressing this golf versus deer season issue. It was intended for our entertainment only.

At this same time Sue Anderson was just starting a newsletter for Crystal and asked if she could print my deer hunting resolution for a little humor. I said fine but clear it with Joe. The next month Sue asked if I had anything else, as any newsletter could use a little humor. I had just seen Baxter on the Johnny Carson show do a poem called “Vegetarians Nightmare,” (Google it and watch if you have never seen it). My parents raised me to think I could do anything; one of my dad’s favorite sayings was, “The hard things we do right away, the impossible just takes a little longer." So, inspired by Baxter, I said, yes, I can write something.

Here we are 40ish years later, hundreds of poems later and The Sugarbeet Grower still thinks enough of the creativity inspired by a “Vegetarians Nightmare“ to expend the ink necessary so you can read my thoughts. I am humbled. I am fully aware that poetry isn’t for everyone — heck I don’t understand it but some folks don’t like onions either. Thanks to those who tolerate me.

I was blessed to get to know Baxter. I have a cherished note on my wall telling me, “You write pretty good,” and we spent a couple hours once with him reading my stuff, critiquing it and talking about the whole process of writing. Not many get to meet their hero GOAT in person. Pick a hero, be inspired, try something you never thought you could do.


Any tribute to Mister Black should rhyme. I know he liked to use just enough words, but no extras. So …

Sunsets are red,
Good ink is Black.
I will miss Baxter.
He ain’t coming back.

David Kragnes farms near Felton, Minn. He is a former board member and chairman of American Crystal Sugar Company, he currently serves on the CoBank Board of Directors.

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